Elkem receives financial support from Norwegian government for potential graphite production plant

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Elkem (Oslo, Norway) says it has received 10.0 million Norwegian kroner (USD1.1 million) in financial support from Enova (Trondheim, Norway), a state enterprise owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, to fund initial planning for a potential large-scale battery materials plant in Norway, reported Chemweek.

The project, named Northern Recharge, aims to supply the fast-growing battery industry through a competitive production process and make batteries greener with lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the company says.

Elkem recently selected Heroya, one of the biggest industrial parks in Norway, as the project site. The company will now continue to progress the Northern Recharge project towards a final investment decision in 2021, it says. “Securing this initial support from Enova is an important step as we progress towards a final investment decision,” says Michael Koenig, CEO of Elkem. The company is also inviting industrial and financial partners to participate, he says.

The project will produce synthetic graphite and composites, which are the leading anode materials in lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery cells, the company says. Using Elkem's technology and renewable hydropower, the project can potentially reduce CO2 emissions by more than 90% compared to conventional production, while potentially reducing energy consumption by around 50%, it says.

“Batteries will undoubtedly play an important role in a future low-emission society. The production of batteries, however, is energy-consuming, so we need to see production processes that are more energy-efficient in the future," says Oyvind Leistad, director/markets at Enova.

Graphite demand is expected to increase more than 10 times from today’s level to 2030, with most battery cell and graphite production currently taking place in Asia, Elkem says. Graphite as an anode material typically represents around 10% of the total battery weight, it notes. The Northern Recharge project “competitively positions us for large-scale and cost-effective material science solutions for the rapidly developing European battery industry,” says Stian Madshus, vice president/battery materials at Elkem.

Elkem has invested NKr 65 million in the building of a pilot plant for battery graphite at Kristiansand, Norway, to evaluate the project's viability. This is expected to open at the beginning of 2021, with the project supported by Innovation Norway, a state-owned company, and a national development bank, Elkem says.

The company says it is also continuing to carry out research on silicon-graphite composite materials for improved battery performance, joining the Hydra and 3beLiEVe research projects on next generation Li-ion batteries coordinated by SINTEF and the Austrian Institute of Technology, respectively. Both projects have received funding from the EU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, it says.

As MRC informed before, Elkem (Oslo, Norway) says it will invest 180.0 million Norwegian krone (USD19.7 million) in a new plant in Canada to pilot an industrial biocarbon process specifically for silicon and ferrosilicon production. The plant will be constructed near Elkem’s production site at Chicoutimi, Quebec, with start of construction planned for the second half of 2020, the company says. The project has received financial support from the Canadian government, the Quebec government, and the city of Saguenay, reducing Elkem’s net investment to NKr60 million.

We remind that the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the development of Norway's offshore oil and gas projects, pushing up costs and postponing startups, the government and oil company Equinor announced. The costs of ongoing projects rose by 13.2 billion Norwegian crowns (USD1.4 billion) from a year ago on an inflation-adjusted basis, government documents showed, as COVID-19 restrictions stalled construction at several fields. "The COVID-19 pandemic and weakened Norwegian (currency) have negatively impacted some of the projects, but the combined project portfolio is still very resilient," Equinor said in a separate statement.

We also remind that BP and Equinor confirmed they are shutting in production on their platforms, while Chevron, BHP and others said they are evacuating some personnel and considering decisions on production reductions.

As reported earlier, Chevron Phillips Chemical, part of Chevron Corporation, still has not lifted force majeure on its polyethylene (PE) products after assessing the impact of Hurricane Laura to its Gulf Coast PE operations. The force majeure circumstances were declared on 1 September, 2020. CP Chem operates a 420,000 mt/year high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plant in Orange, Texas, and an 855,000 mt/year cracker in Port Arthur. The company plans to minimize the impact of the event and return to full PE deliveries as soon as possible.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 1,496,500 tonnes in the first eight months of 2020, up by 5% year on year. Shipments of all ethylene polymers increased, except for linear low desnity polyethylene (LLDPE).

HDPE production in Russia up by 96% in January-September

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Russia's production of high density polyethylene (HDPE) totalled 1,366,000 tonnes in the first nine months of 2020, up by 96% year on year. ZapSibNeftekhim accounted for the main increase in the output, according to MRC's ScanPlast report.

September PE production in Russia was 156,200 tonnes, whereas this figure was 169,000 tonnes a month earlier, output of high density polyethylene (HDPE) at the facilities of Kazanorgsintez decreased because of the shutdown. Thus, overall HDPE output reached 1,366,000 tonnes in January-September 2020, compared to 695,200 tonnes a year earlier. All producers raised their output, but ZapSibNeftekhim accounted for the greatest increase.

The structure of PE output by grades looked the following way over the stated period.

Kazanorgsintez's total HDPE output decreased to 23,600 tonnes in September from 47,600 tonnes a month earlier, the Kazan producer stopped its production facilities for scheduled maintenances in September-October. Russian plants' overall HDPE output reached 383,700 tonnes in January-September 2020, up by 4% year on year.

Last month, HDPE production at Stavrolen facilities increased to 26,900 tonnes against 25,300 tonnes in August. Thus, for the period under review, the total volume of polyethylene production by the Budenny producer amounted to 238,900 tonnes, up 12% than a year earlier.

To a large extent, this increase is due to the absence of a shutdown for scheduled works, which took place last year in September - October.

Stavrolen's September output of HDPE at Gazprom neftekhim Salavat increased to 10,100 tonnes from 9,700 tonnes a month earlier. Overall HDPE production grew to 92,800 tonnes in the first nine months of 2020 from 77,000 tonnes a year earlier.

The increase in the volume of polyethylene production in Salavat was also ensured by the absence of a shutdown for maintenances in the current year. ZapSibNeftekhim increased its production of HDPE to 95,700 tonnes last month against 86,300 tonnes in August. During the period under review, the new manufacturer produced more than 650,000 tonnes of HDPE.


Gujarat Heavy Chemicals records lower quarterly net income

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Chemicals and textiles manufacturer GHCL Ltd on Monday reported a 27.71 percent decline in consolidated net profit to Rs 84.86 crore for the quarter ended September 2020, said Chemweek.

The company had posted a consolidated net profit of Rs 116.84 crore in the July-September period a year ago, GHCL said in a regulatory filing. Revenue from operations dipped 3.47 percent to Rs 806.51 crore as against Rs 835.52 crore in the corresponding period of the previous financial year, it added.

Total expenses stood at Rs 703.84 crore, almost unchanged from Rs 703.18 crore in Q2 FY2019-20. GHCL Managing Director R S Jalan said the company’s businesses are returning towards normal.

"Better consumption patterns, robust improvement in operational efficiencies, cost reduction programs coupled with volume growth have led to improved financial performance,” he said. Revenue from inorganic chemicals segment was down 11.37 percent to Rs 479.90 crore as against Rs 541.50 crore earlier.

Home textiles revenue rose 11.08 percent to Rs 326.61 crore as against Rs 294.02 crore. Shares of GHCL Ltd on Monday settled at Rs 162.95 on BSE, up 3.10 percent from its previous close.

As MRC wrote previously, US chemical volumes are expected to drop nearly 10% this year as global economic activity contracts due to the impacts of COVID-19, according to the American Chemistry Council's (ACC) Mid-Year 2020 Chemical Industry Situation and Outlook. Volumes should recover in 2021 with a return to pre-COVID-19 output levels in the US by the second half of 2021.

Arkema wins the 2020 Pierre Potier Prize for its Elium liquid thermoplastic resin for wind turbines

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Arkema wins the 2020 Pierre Potier Prize for its Elium® liquid thermoplastic resin for wind turbines Elium,liquid thermoplastic resin, a breakthrough innovation in the composites market that enables the manufacture of 100% recyclable wind turbine blades, said the company.

The production of wind energy, both on shore and off shore, is expected to play a major role in the transition towards low-carbon energies. Yet, in this market which counts annual growth of 12 to 15%, tens of thousands of blades are produced around the world every year. These blades use composites based on thermoset resins, which are very difficult to recycle and are therefore most often buried or incinerated at the end of their life cycle, with a significant environmental impact.

Developed in Arkema’s research centre in Lacq (64), Elium® liquid thermoplastic resin is the first ever resin that enables the manufacture of fully recyclable wind turbine blades – a true breakthrough innovation. Recycling, whether mechanical or chemical, is a considerable asset in the life cycle of wind turbines. The parts are first ground and then heated to depolymerise the resin so that it can be separated from the fibre filler. After purification and reformulation, a new liquid thermoplastic resin is obtained with the same characteristics as the virgin resin.

Arkema is thus at the heart of the ZEBRA (Zero wastE Blade ReseArch) consortium led by IRT Jules Verne, an ambitious project that aims to create the first 100% recyclable wind turbine blade and to contribute to the development of environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions for wind power.

"We are immensely proud to receive the Pierre Potier Prize, which commends an innovative and sustainable solution for wind turbine blades at the end of their life cycle – a major challenge for the sector due to considerable volumes involved. With our Elium® thermoplastic resin, we have provided a solution to the environmental challenges of wind power by making it part of a circular economy approach."

Beyond the wind power market, Elium® resin enables the production of a wide variety of fibreglass or carbon-fibre-composite thermoplastic parts of all sizes and with complex shapes. Its economic benefit comes from two major characteristics: its ease of implementation with short hardening times at room temperature and its compatibility with the numerous technologies for processing existing thermosetting resins, thus limiting investments for fabricators already equipped with these machines and opening up a vast range of developments in many sectors such as transportation, construction and the boating industry.

As MRC reported earlier, Arkema said in June, 2020, that it had finalized the divestment of its functional polyolefins business to SK Global Chemical. The divestment was announced last year. Arkema says the sale forms part of its strategy to refocus the group’s activities on specialty materials.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's overall PE production totalled 1,712,400 tonnes in the first seven months of 2020, up by 58% year on year. Linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) accounted for the greatest increase in the output. At the same time, overall PP production in Russia increased in January-July 2020 by 24% year on year to 1,063,700 tonne. ZapSibNeftekhim accounted for the main increase in the output.

Arkema is a global manufacturer in specialty chemicals and advanced materials, with 3 business segments - High Performance Materials, Industrial Specialties, and Coating Solutions - and globally recognized brands. The Group reports annual sales of EUR8.8 billion. Buoyed by the collective energy of its 20,000 employees, Arkema operates in close to 55 countries.


Lotte Chemical resumes operations at its cracker in Lake Charles

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Lotte Chemical USA, a joint venture (40:60) of the Malaysian company Lotte Chemical Titan and its parent company Lotte Chemical Corporation, has restarted its cracker in Lake Charles in the aftermath of Hurricane Delta's Oct. 9 landfall, reported S&P Global with reference to market sources.

This cracker with the production capacity of 1 million mt/year is nearly half-owned by Westlake Chemical.

Lotte also has restarted its associated 700,000 mt/year monoethylene glycol plant (MEG), market sources said.

Lotte did not respond to a request for comment.

As MRC informed before, South Korea’s Lotte Chemical has delayed the restart of its fire-hit naphtha-fed steam cracker in Daesan for the third time to end-November, from October.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 1,496,500 tonnes in the first eight months of 2020, up by 5% year on year. Shipments of all ethylene polymers increased, except for linear low desnity polyethylene (LLDPE). At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market reached 767,2900 tonnes in the eight months of 2020 (calculated using the formula - production minus exports plus imports - and not counting producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020). Supply increased exclusively of PP random copolymer.